THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2023
This is the garbage we've chosen: Should Donald J. Trump be charged with a crime with respect to those payments to Stormy Daniels?
Imaginably, it could depend on what he actually did! For example, did he write off those "legal fees" on his tax returns, thereby defrauding the state and federal governments out of some cold, hard cash?
We have no idea if he did that! If he did, that would start to look like a recognizable crime, unlike the less recognizable crimes with which it has recently seemed that he was about to be charged.
Concerning those less recognizable crimes, Charles Coleman went rogue last night.
By his own admission, Coleman is "a seasoned civil rights attorney and legal analyst [who] has quickly emerged as one of one of strongest thought leaders and modern voices in today's conversation on race, law, culture, politics, social justice, and civil rights. "
Coleman is also an MSNBC legal analyst. Inevitably, he's a graduate of Harvard Law School—and he's frequently seen on MSNBC's primetime TV shows.
Coleman is a good, decent person. Last night, on The Last Word, he briefly went rogue, saying this:
COLEMAN (3/22/23): I will be very honest and candid, although it is unpopular and many people may not necessarily want to hear it...
[Later today, we'll be able to complete the transcript of Coleman's remarks. For reasons which seem to be perfectly obvious, MSNBC no longer provides transcripts of its TV shows.]
In this statement, Coleman echoed the recent column by the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, a graduate of Harvard Law School. As we noted yesterday morning, Marcus said she was somewhat concerned by the route Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg seemed to be taking.
In fact, several people within our blue tribe have voiced discomfort with the possible direction being taken by Bragg. As Andrew Weissman noted last night immediately after Coleman spoke, we'll have to wait for Bragg's final action before we can assess what he has and hasn't done.
As for now, it may be that Trump has committed a recognizable crime in this matter. But it may also be that he hasn't.
Maybe he has—but maybe he hasn't! Of course, as everyone surely knows by now, that isn't the way cable works.
Blue cable belongs to Hacks Like Us—to people who tell us the stories our blue tribe likes to hear.
These "hacks" appear on our TV shows, fracturing known facts and elementary logic. In yesterday morning's report, we described one such performance—the absurd performance which unfolded Tuesday night on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront.
Blue tribe legal expert Ryan Goodman was eager to show that nothing could possibly be wrong with any possible indictment of Donald J. Trump up in Gotham. People get criminally charged for conduct like Trump's all the time, the expert seemed to be saying.
According to Goodman, one couple was recently charged with a crime for defrauding their insurance company out of something like three thousand dollars! That doesn't seem to resemble anything Trump is known to have done in the Daniels case, but Erin Burnett simply gazed all about as Goodman expounded, thus letting the lesson unfold.
Did Goodman's performance make any sense? We can't say that it did.
He offered four examples of regular people who have been criminally charged for a false business filing. But none of these cases seemed anything like what Trump is known to have done.
In such ways, the stupidification of modern discourse advances apace on our own tribe's TV shows. And sure enough! Eleven hours later, in yesterday morning's 6 o'clock hour, the gentleman known as Morning Joe began to recite.
Scarborough teased his recitation at 6:03 A.M. Judging from appearances, producers had directed him to the four events Goodman had cited the night before.
Thanks to the work of The Internet Archive, you can watch him deliver the 6:03 tease and the rest of the mormning's remarks. The tease went exactly like this:
SCARBOROUGH (3/22/23): You hear one lie after another coming from Republicans who get in front of microphones and say, "Nobody gets charged with this. There's no way he'd be charged with this except for the fact that he's Trump and they hate Donald Trump and they're going after Donald Trump."
My gosh, Mika, we're going to be showing some examples coming up of how this statute has been used, this felony statute has been used for as small an item as a couch! Somebody shopping and bringing back actually goods that they didn't pay for, and getting store credit for them, getting caught for that, a couple of thousand bucks, and they get charged with this felony.
And so somehow lying about $130,000 to pay off a porn star, them saying this is much ado about nothing, when people are getting charged with this same thing for a couch and for a couple of thousand dollars of store credit? They're lying! But of course, that's not a shock!
So it went in the 6:03 tease.
At this extremely early hour, Joe seemed to have two of Goodman's cases mixed up in his head. He wasn't confused about Storyline, in which 1) only Republicans have voiced concern about this pending matter in Gotham; and in which 2) by obvious rule of law, the Republicans have been "lying."
Joe did seem to be confused about two of these cases. In fact, the three thousand dollars was the amount the larcenous couple had scammed from their insurance company for the couch they lost in the fire. The larcenous store credit at Lord & Taylor was for an unnamed amount.
No matter! Joe returned to this script at 6:08 A.M. By now, he had a full-sized graphic which listed three of Goodman's cases from the night before.
"I want to get back to the Republican lie, the main Republican lie right now," the cable star thoughtfully said. As Lawrence O'Donnell has endlessly taught us, repeating the L-word is powerful!
With the graphic to work from, Joe was now able to rattle some facts about the handful of cases at issue. These cases involved baldly larcenous conduct—larcenous conduct which didn't seem to resemble Donald J. Trump's:
SCARBOROUGH: Let's give you some details on people who were charged with what Trump may be charged with...
Here's some examples:
A married couple charged for, quote, attempting to recover the cash value of various items of property that were lost in a house fire. They claimed $5,000 for a leather couch they had purchased for $1,900. You see that?
In fact, everyone could see that now, in part because he now had the graphic to work from. For the record, Joe was performing for Mika at this time, but also for a pair of sidekicks and for three other guests.
Needless to say, none of these players said a word about the sheer stupidity of Joe's repeated presentation. Blue tribe "cable news" is built upon this baldly corrupt arrangement.
Joe ran through his puzzling examples at 6:08 A.M. His principal point seemed to be this:
$130,000 is more than $3,000.
His arithmetic was correct. But in the one case he had cited, an insurance company was being scammed out of that $3,000. An obvious theft had occurred.
No one was scammed out of any money when Stormy Daniels was handed her cash. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that payments of this kind are not illegal in and of themselves.
Joe ran through his examples during his 6:08 recitation. He ran through them again at 6:13 when he introduced an additional guest. Blue tribe viewers got to hear the recitation all over again.
This new guest was Dave Aronberg, state's attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Despite the importance of his public office, Aronberg can be counted on to go along with these recitations of distorted approved tribal script.
Uh-oh! On this occasion, even Aronberg felt forced to acknowledge that he himself had been "a little bit critical" about the Gotham venture.
Instantly, though, he recovered and established his worth. The state's attorney said this:
ARONBERG (3/22/23): As far as this case, you know, I know a lot of people are saying it's small ball, and you know I've been a little bit critical, thinking maybe this isn't the one that should go first. It's the fourth out of four out there of the cases swirling around Donald Trump.
But that doesn't mean it's a weak case. The hush money payment is what sent Michael Cohen to federal prison.
"The hush money payment is what sent Michael Cohen to federal prison?" We reviewed the role played by that mandated statement in Monday afternoon's report:
As Aronberg knows, Cohen pled guilty to a total of eight (8) federal crimes. His role in the payments to Daniels was involved in only one or two of those charges, and those charges were never put to the test in front of an actual jury.
That said, the people who perform on blue tribe cable will always say what Aronberg said—that Cohen was sent to federal prison because of the hush money matter, full stop.
This embellishment makes the story sound better to blue tribe ears. Presumably, pleasing misstatements of this type bring viewers back for more.
Starting at 6:03 yesterday morning, Scarborough played the tribal fool, as he now frequently does. He was ably assisted by Mika's occasional two-word bursts of agreement.
He had been equipped with script which came live and direct from the previous evening's gong-show on CNN. Today, you can see his early recitations thanks to the Internet Archive.
As Scarborough staged his recitations, he tried to say the words "porn star" as many times as possible. None of his sidekicks and none of his guests asked the world's most obvious questions:
In what way does a fraudulent insurance claim about a couch relate to whatever it is that Trump will turn out to have done?
In what way is Trump's conduct, whatever it turns out to be, comparable to the act of stealing merchandise from Lord & Taylor, then "bringing it back" for a "refund?"
Those were examples of recognizable crimes—but in what way were those criminal acts comparable to whatever it is that Trump is known to have done?
Joe was surrounded by corporate clowns. As "MSNBC contributors," they all know they're paid not to ask.
This is the way the game is now played by the tribe which is good and honest and just extremely smart! Or at least, so the self-flattering story goes, thanks to our blue tribe's vastly disordered sense of self and our vastly disordered logic.
Go ahead—watch Joe's early recitations, thanks to the Internet Archive! He started at 6:03 A.M., then kept reciting the material his producers had fed him.
Except by the logic of tribal war, none of it actually made any sense. If we might borrow from Don Corleone, this is the moral and intellectual breakdown we've chosen.
Tomorrow: This bullsh*t never ends